By J. Patrick Pepper
DEARBORN — With the city’s federally mandated combined sewage overflow project already projected to finish $70 million over its budget of $334 million, the price tag is heavy. But with the details of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act finally beginning to crystallize, it appears some is relief on the way.
Dearborn is one of 40 Michigan municipalities looking at a piece of $168.5 million in federal stimulus funds designated for upgrading and replacing aging sewer lines.
In a $525 million list of eligible projects released Wednesday by Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s office, Dearborn had two totaling $75 million.
At $65 million, the construction of a sewage treatment shaft on the city’s west side ranked as the second priciest project on the list. The other $10 million was requested for sewage separation, also on the west side. According to the governor’s list, the city must have all contracts finalized and submitted to the state by the end of August.
Dearborn was one of the first communities in line for the money because it already had submitted loan applications for projected CSO expenditures to the state last year. That, combined with a full project plan and schedule, made it the type of “ready-to-go” project prioritized by the stimulus package.
“By getting these projects off the ground, we are protecting our citizens and our environment while putting Michigan workers back on the job,” said Granholm.
State officials said that three-quarters of the available money would be distributed on an equitable basis among the 47 eligible projects. The remainder has been set aside for 2010 projects. The money will be disbursed in the form of loan forgiveness through the state, which annually provides local governments with low-interest loans for infrastructure projects.
Still undetermined, however, is exactly what equitable means — something Michigan Department of Environmental Quality spokesman Robert McCann said could take weeks.
“With all of the stimulus developments happening so quickly, we’re trying to keep pace, but (sewage) is such a large area of need across the state, and we need to make sure we get it right and we need to make sure it’s fair,” he said.
While nothing has been finalized, McCann said officials are crunching the numbers for a percentage-based formula. That approach, he said, would give each community a set proportion of its requested project’s cost.